Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has said that her Department will be pausing the recovery of benefit overpayments and loan repayments from a number of Social Security benefits for three months, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Announcing the suspension, Minister Hargey said
“This suspension of debt recovery activity will provide financial easement to people with benefit overpayment related debt or an outstanding loan balance. The change means many people will see an increase in the amount of money they receive in benefits during these three months.”
Overpayment and loan deductions will cease from the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Attendance Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance
- Employment Support Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Benefit
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Income Support
- Jobseeker's Allowance
- Maternity Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Personal Independence Payment
- State Pension
- Widow’s Parents Allowance
- Widow's Pension Allowance
Many activities will cease immediately but others may take longer to implement.
Recovery of all Social Fund and Discretionary Support loans will be suspended.
Customers currently making repayments through a Bank Standing Order may wish to contact their bank to cancel their arrangement, however, this will need to be set up again following this pause period. For customers repaying through other means, the Department has already written to employers asking them to stop deductions from salaries and all recoveries by Direct Debit will also be suspended for three months.
Minister Hargey concluded,
“I remain committed to doing everything I can to ensure that those most in need and the most vulnerable receive all the financial help and support they can during this difficult time This suspension of the recovery of benefit overpayments and loans will go some way to easing the financial difficulty that many find themselves in during this period of uncertainty.”
Notes to editors:
1. Deductions on behalf of third party creditors for payment of court fines, utility and housing arrears will continue.
2. Deductions from Universal Credit in respect of Child Maintenance payments will continue.
3. Deductions for repayment of a Universal Credit Advance Payment will continue.
4. Deductions for repayment of a short term benefit advance will continue.
5. NIHE has suspended referral of Housing Benefit overpayments.
6. HMRC has suspended referral of Tax Credit debts.
7. The Department is stopping debt recovery activity as soon as possible including benefit-related overpayments, Welfare Supplementary Payment debts, Social Fund and Discretionary Support Loan repayments and recovery of Tax Credit debts.
8. For people who are not on benefits, the Department has directed our private sector debt collection agencies to stop their activity for Debt Management customers.
9. An outstanding loan balance can limit the amount of loan you can apply for in the future, if you wish to continue to repay your current Social Fund or Discretionary Support loan you should contact Debt Management on telephone 0800 587 2981 or email DS.RECOVERY@DFCNI.GOV.UK
10. Media enquiries to DfC Press Office at email@example.com. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
11. Follow us on twitter @CommunitiesNI
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